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What's your car camping set-up?

I wish I where so fancy to roll a roof tent when car camping, but since moving more city-ward I've opted for a more gas-mileage friendly vehicle that has no roof rails. Oh, and who am I kidding, I like sleeping in the dirt.

Car camping is a blast. Wherever you can park and setup camp, that's camp.

I break my packing list into a triangle: bed, kitchen, and gear.

Bed: I have no problem throwing up a tent, but in recent years I've really enjoyed sleeping in the open air, rain being the exception. As such I've got a collapsible cot that's great, but I do enjoy setting up the hammock as well. Recently, I discovered underquilts for hammocking. Those things are great. Keeps your bottom-side far more warm.

Kitchen: Roll-a-table, and a plastic bin of cookware, a bin of dry foods, the 5 gallon cooler, and a big old water jug. I'm generally not going for longer than a few days, so that's always been more than plenty for me. I do have a tiny backpacking gas stove that I use to boil water in the morning, but I much prefer cooking on a fire, so I got this great collapsible fire pit if there's no suitable fire pit around. And it's sturdy enough to throw the cast iron on.

Gear: small black hole duffel of clothes and sundries, camp chair, camp stool, usually some horseshoes, and depending on where I'm going a NRS inflatable paddleboard. Quality thing to go out on the water with.

And all of that gets thrown in the back of the fit. Hatch-backs are great!

In 2018 I did a solid 6 day trip through west Texas. Two days out from Austin where I was at the time, two days with some friends, and two days back. It was awesome! Not a single campsite rental and starry skies every night. Also, I was the coolest cat around when we were all waiting for a small town BBQ joint to open and I popped the hatch and pulled out the chair and stove to make some coffee.

What do you bring with you? And what's been one of your memorable car trips?

Currently North by South
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4 Replies

@CaptainRob73 Thanks for the post!

While I had the advantage of living in Alaska and having the room for a Tepui, which enabled us to access some of the amazing public lands in that beautiful state. My favorite piece of gear is our Biolite Basecamp stove, which helps us cook, charge our electronics, and runs on biofuel that is readily available in most places we camp. Additionally, I really appreciate that it allows us to leave no trace when we pack up camp and move on.

Thanks again for the fun topic!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

That looks like an excellent stove for car camping! I've enjoyed mine because it collapses flat and if my pack isn't too heavy I can use it backpacking, but I do have to say that looks real solid for a more well-packed campsite.

Good recommendation!

Currently North by South

Ha! I feel better after reading this knowing I haven't been packing too much.  

For kitchen / cooking: after seeing someone at Bryce Canyon NP with a solostove I had to buy one. Creates little to no smoke and with a wire rack on top I can cook meals. Not sure how big my cooler is but def more than 5 gal; maybe 20?  It works well to fit in a beer 12 pack, and food that needs keeping cold. Two bins as well: one with dry food and silverware, and the other with cooking gear.  A big green Costco bag keeps the tent, sleeping, & mattress pad bags in one place along with a couple of lanterns. I have a foldable table as well. Oh, and an axe if I need / want to chop extra wood. 

My most memorable car trip was this past fall from Phoenix to Grand Teton National Park / Jackson Hole.  I found an amazing, riverside campsite practically all to myself (there was one couple in an RV on the other side).  Was there for 3 nights before heading back.  Unfortunately the campsites on the return weren't as ... appealing?  I LOVE to camp in the woods.
Do you go camping solo, too?  

Love reading this chain...kinda of a checks and balances to what I've got going.  I'm on a year-long camping and hiking adventure around the country.  I feel like I change my set-up at every stop.  But as a novice, I'm sure I'll create a system eventually.

Kitchen: Box for dry food, box for utensils and cooking tools, jug for water (and some other storage options if I'm away from clean water sources for long), I have a Coleman stove and jet boil.  I just bought the small Solo Stove, but plan on using that for hikes.

Gear: I have a Taj3 tent.  I'm contemplating the REI Kingdom to upgrade. REI Dreamer sleep pad.  I also have a hammock, but it's been too cold for sleeping.